Pursuing Justice Through Faith-Based Impact Investing
(Above – Azure, a Calvert Impact Capital portfolio partner, is an initiative that mobilizes capital and technical expertise to upgrade and expand water services for the poor in rural and peri-urban communities of El Salvador. Azure was launched through a partnership between Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (IDB/MIF)).
Justice, justice, justice shall you pursue.
For many of us who engage in impact investing, this verse from Deuteronomy 16:20 is a familiar one, our clarion call to pursue a path of justice and healing – which includes the responsible stewardship of our personal and communal assets. Many more Americans have become familiar with this verse, as the words hung in the chambers of esteemed Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a touchstone for her as she pursued a life committed to justice.
Today, the call for justice is growing louder, with a global pandemic that has laid bare the deep fissures in our society and a legacy of systemic racism and economic inequality that we as a nation can no longer ignore. And in the midst of this crisis and churning, we are also experiencing a great awakening to the possibility of transforming society, as we acknowledge our interdependence, and make real a world that is just, equitable, and sustainable.
For all investors, but particularly for communities of faith in these turbulent times, the prospect of impact investing offers an abundance of meaningful opportunities to realign and reaffirm how our values support our investment strategies. From a congregation that decides to make a deposit in a local credit union or Black-owned community development bank, or to a church-based pension fund that invests in climate resilience, there are multitude of options and approaches across asset classes and impact themes for investors to explore.
Like many of us working in this dynamic space, my own impact investing journey began well before the term was coined. In the late 90s, I had the good fortune to work alongside visionary leader Jeffrey Dekro to organize the first and only national initiative to encourage American Jewish individual and institutional investing in CDFIs and low-wealth communities. Our “why” was steeped in Jewish values, teachings, and our historical experience as immigrants. To undertake the “how,” we looked to leaders across faiths as our models and partners, as well as to secular funds like Calvert Impact Capital, as we supported congregations, foundations, and communal organizations to make their first impact investments over the course of a decade-plus. We also launched an interfaith disaster response fund, focusing on critical recovery programs post-Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Sandy, demonstrating the power of interfaith investor partnerships.
In doing this work, we were part of a long and storied tradition. Faith institutions helped create the impact investing market as we know it today. Over the decades, faith communities have served as true pioneers and risk takers, demonstrating again and again that impact investing is a viable strategy in pursuit of justice, offering opportunity to our most vulnerable and disenfranchised communities, locally and globally.
At Calvert Impact Capital, one of the first impact funds in the US, faith investors have been our partners since we began our work 25 years ago. By that time, faith investing in US community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and international microfinance was an established practice, with Catholic orders and women religious at the vanguard. Today, faith investors currently represent more than 15 percent of our $500 million capital base. They include congregations, churches, health care systems, mutual funds, and foundations, and span denominations and affiliations – Catholic, Baptist, Mennonite, Jewish, Unitarian, Methodist, and many others. We also know that many of our 5,400 individual investors are inspired by their traditions; our most recent investor survey revealed that 26 percent of respondents “invest because of my faith.”
As Director of Faith Based Initiatives, I serve as a resource and a connector for faith institutions and their financial professionals — chief investment officers, financial advisors, and asset managers — leveraging Calvert Impact Capital’s impact investment expertise. Since 1995, we have helped over 150 faith-based groups develop their first impact investing programs or enhance programs already underway; overcome barriers with internal finance committees, leadership, external financial advisors, and fund managers; explore creative ways to deploy their assets; and connect with other faith investors doing this work to share successes and lessons learned. We understand well that for many faith investors travelling from the faith-specific “why” to the “how” is a process of discernment, listening, and eventually, action. We also work very closely with financial advisors and professionals who are committed to supporting their faith clients on this journey.
Faith-based investors are natural leaders of the impact investing movement and we want to ensure they are fully equipped to reach their potential. This is why over the next year, we will offer a series of training opportunities and resources to educate faith investors and build a deeper impact investing practice among them.
In this effort we join a growing network of both secular and faith organizations, including the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), FaithInvest, Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC) and many others, who share a commitment to seeing faith institutions engage more fully in the impact investing ecosystem and with whom we actively collaborate. And we also want to hear from you: What challenges are you facing as a faith-based investor or as a financial professional working with faith communities? What resources do you need? How can we help or work together?
Answering the call to be part of the solution to our urgent local and global challenges has never been more urgent. Drawing from the examples set by many faith investors so far, we encourage congregations and institutions of all faiths and religious traditions—and the community of financial professionals who support them—to seek justice and put faith into action through impact investing.
Article by Amanda Joseph, Director of Faith-Based Initiatives at Calvert Impact Capital, a leading impact investment firm that through its products and services has mobilized over $2 billion in investments to create a more equitable and sustainable world. She serves as a resource for faith-based investors on their impact investing journeys and partners with faith leaders and networks to build the capacity and community of practicing faith-based impact investors.
Previously, Amanda worked at Opportunity Finance Network, the nation’s leading association of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) committed to providing affordable, responsible capital and financial services to communities not served by mainstream finance. She has held senior management roles at a technology company assisting Americans to sustainably move out of poverty and for a decade-plus at Jewish Funds for Justice/The Shefa Fund where she managed the first and only national initiative to organize the American Jewish community to invest in low-wealth communities across the county.
Amanda has prior experience as a commercial loan officer for the Self-Help Credit Union, and has worked with a range of mission-driven organizations. She holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management, and an AB from Bryn Mawr College.